The 2017-2018 season was one of historic proportions for the Christopher High girls soccer team. The Cougars established a couple of firsts in program history, winning an A-league championship along with a Central Coast Section playoff game. What can Christopher do for an encore? Well, repeat as league champions and win multiple games in the postseason. The Cougars have every reason to believe they can make it happen.
They return nine starters and also added another standout freshmen class that promises to make an immediate impact. At the conclusion of last season—a 4-3 double overtime loss to Leigh in a CCS Division I playoff semifinal—Christopher coach Matt Oetinger said this year’s goal would be to win league and CCS on the caveat that “unless something dramatically changes.”
Well, things have changed for Christopher—for the better. To wit: the Cougars have seven—count ‘em, seven—freshmen on their roster, including three that started in the first couple matches of the season. Oetinger has an incredible bounty of talent to work with, and now it’s a matter of time of how well the team can coalesce to achieve their potential.
The Cougars return reigning Gabilan Division Most Valuable Player Aurea Martin, who averaged 1½ goals per game last season and commanded multiple players marking her. Oetinger said the senior striker has earned a full-ride scholarship to a Division I program and looks better than ever.
“She’s really the whole package as far as intelligence, work ethic, talent and personality,” Oetinger said.
Christopher plays Los Gatos on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader of the Earthquakes High School Soccer Series at Avaya Stadium. There will be no charge for parking or tickets, so fans are encouraged to come. Oetinger is a Los Gatos alum and coached there for six years, so he and the players are excited for this event for a variety of reasons.
“Everyone is super excited because a lot of our role models (in the sport) have played on that field, whether it’s U.S. national players or different pro players,” said sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Anaya. “It’s kind of cool we’re going to play on the same field as them.”
Anaya started at goalkeeper last year as a freshman, and she enters this season at a much higher level—both emotionally and physically—than a year ago.
“I’m definitely more comfortable now because I know the girls and what they all can—which is a lot,” she said. “I was obviously nervous in the first game last year, but the girls helped me get through that which allowed me to play the way I can. Now I try to help the freshmen. I understand how everything works and being more mature has really helped my play on the field.”
Other players who are expected to play significant roles include center back Jackie Sanchez, center midfielder Ally Euchari and center midfielder Jaden Carillo. Sanchez , who possesses a ton of experience and athleticism, anchors the back line, while Euchari, a four-year varsity player, has helped shepherd in the younger girls to a smooth transition, Carillo made tremendous improvement since last season and freshman Jenna Urrabazo plays alongside Carillo.
Three freshmen who figure to make big-time contributions to the team include center midfielder Urrabazo, left wing Taylor Mejia and left back/wing Jessica Schween.
“For me to start them (in a game early in the season) is really big because you have to have that trust,” Oetinger said. “Obviously, their play dictated their minutes.”
The freshmen trio of center back Skyler Turiello, center midfielder Aesha Sandoval and center midfielder Korina Rodeo also earned some valuable minutes earlier in the season. Since most or all of the players who come into the program play club soccer, the freshmen have plenty of match experience. However, the social dynamics of high school soccer are different, and that is where their Christopher teammates can help them the most.
“A lot of it is about gaining faith and confidence as they come onto a team with juniors and seniors,” Oetinger said. “They can be intimidated and there can be a lot of self-doubt. So it’s really about keeping and putting them into situations where they buy into their own talent. They’re here for a reason—these girls can play.”
So can Anaya, who made the Olympic Development Program in the off-season and “has come back several steps better than last year,” Oetinger said. Anaya possesses athleticism quick reflexes and is able to anticipate the play and where it’s going. She also likes being vocal and communicating with her teammates.
“I try to anticipate a lot because a lot of playing goalie is thinking ahead,” said the 5-foot-4 Anaya, who earned all-PCAL First Team Field Hockey honors this past season, a testament to her versatility and talent.
When it came time for the Gabilan Division coaches to select the all-league teams last season, Oetinger said Anaya was at a disadvantage because in some games the opposition never got off a single shot on goal. Still, others know a talent when they see one.
“The Hollister coach (Becky Bonner) said she (Jordan) is the best high school goalie I’ve seen,” Oetinger said. “I’m optimistic for the season. If we stay healthy, we have the capability of surpassing what we did last year.”
Anaya can’t wait for the season to unfold, as Christopher has talent and goes nearly two deep at every position.
“I can already tell this team will be very united and similar to last season,” she said.